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BenQ HT4050 Home Theater Projector Review - Summary

Posted on November 6, 2015 by Art Feierman
BENQ HT4050 PROJECTOR - SUMMARY:  Overall Picture, Practical Usage - HE or HT, Value Proposition, The Bottom Line, Pros and Cons

HT4050 Overall Picture Quality

First of all, few projectors can compete with the HT4050 - at any price - when it comes to how good - accurate, the color is, right out of the box.  If you want a projector that you can just plug in and know it's already 98% of the way to the best its capable of, then "this one's for you."

Of course the pictures above can't fully capture how good the BenQ looks, and how good they look are in part dependent on the display you are viewing on (and many other variables).  Still if they look good to you, they will look a lot better with the projector shining on your screen.

Oh, the Brightness and contrast settings could use minor adjustment buy you'll find that info on our regular calibration page.

This is simple stuff.  Use REC 709 mode for most viewing, including movie viewing (or if you are adjusting, based on that, User 1 such as if you are using the slightly modified settings we provide on our Advanced calibration page).

But when you have enough ambient light to start taking the toll on "best" mode, then try Vivid.  I'm using Vivid for all my sports viewing because I don't watch sports with my theater fully darkened.  I'm either letting in outside light or have all the rear lights (8 down facing LED lights) on.

Skin tones are on the money.  On rare occasion I'm picking up a touch too much red, with skin tones on bright scenes, which may tie into the slightly warmer than ideal color balance that we found only at full brightness (white) but goes away on all but the brightest area.

Black level performance, if anything is the HT4050's most notable limitation in terms of picture.  I've been using the projector with Smart Eco, to allow for the better black level performance due to dynamic lamp dimming.  That gives the HT4050 a definite advantage on the lower cost DLP and 3LCD projectors.  I'll repeat this below, in the value proposition area, for emphasis:  Black level performance (Smart Eco engaged) is superior to the older BenQ W1070, the HT1075 and their siblings!

And that also makes the HT4050 a better Home Theater projector, not just a home entertainment projector.

Best mode, (REC 709) provides the most natural, desirable picture with Brilliant Color turned off).  Vivid mode gives you more pop, but less natural, and provides the horsepower to cut through additional ambient light, which of course easts into that extra "pop."

Practical Usage: Is this a Home Entertainment or Home Theater Projector

The answer is "yes."  That's right, I figure the HT4050 is equally good at both, but what does that mean?


BenQ HT4050 - good home entertainment, better home theater, and it physically looks good too.

By my definition, a home theater projector is one that is designed to do a great job, in a "great" room.  NO, not a big living room, but great in a room optimized for projectors, aka a "home theater".  Generally that means excellent control of lighting, and ideally it means darker surfaces - dark walls, even dark ceilings and floors.  My home theater is typical of that.  Home Entertainment projectors, as a group, are a good deal brighter, because their emphasis is doing a good job in rooms that were never intended for projectors: Living, Family, Bonus rooms, etc. even a spare bedroom.  And Home Entertainment projectors all have internal speakers, and these days, MHL on one HDMI port so they can support streaming sticks like Roku or Amazon Fire...

The HT4050 cranks out about 1800 lumens at mid-zoom in its Vivid mode which has very good color.  A couple years ago, I called that a "light canon", but today's projectors overall are a lot brighter - not because most are designed for HE, but because they all do 3D, which needs about 3X the brightness.  So, for the most part, gone are projectors that even at their brightest, can't break 1000 lumens.  This projector can do double that.

As a Home Theater projector I really like the HT4050.  Primarily because not only is it capable of great color, but because it's black level performance is a bit better than just about all of the competitors, even if it still is well short of what I consider a true "ultra high contrast" projector.  Translated:  Black levels are really good for the price, but if you have 50% more to spend, there's a whole other world of performance available.

As a Home Entertainment projector I am again pleased, because I find Vivid to be sufficiently bright, and look great.

But!  As a home entertainment projector know that there are plenty of competitors that are brighter - that is, can handle more ambient light and still look good.  Mind you few in this price range are dramatically brighter, but an extra 30-40% more brightness is available.  Even the BenQ HC1200 more of a crossover biz projector, has a nice boost in brightness (claiming 2800 vs. 2000), and we liked that when reviewed.

When it comes to either situation, I commend the HT4050 for it's much better than most placement flexibility. Few DLP projectors around this price have lens shift, and zoom lenses greater than about 1.3:1.  In your home theater, that will give you a lot more flexibility when mounting.

As an HE projector, it can sit closer to the screen than most, and that can be a bonus.

I wish I could tell you that the HT4050 is a good projector for you gamers out there, but that I can't promise.  I measured the HT4050 here, and got some dismal input lag times - around 78ms.  That's just too much.  We've figured 50-51 ms is the slowest acceptable to serious gamers.  (If you are playing online monopoly you won't care.).

Fortunately, I'm reviewing an engineering sample with V0.19 firmware.  I'm told that the production units have much lower input lags.  The indication is more like 33-34, which is typical and considered good. Great of course is 0 input lag and next best is around 16-17ms (one frame  delay for a 60fps game).  If the production units can deliver those low-mid 30's then all but the most hardcore gamers will be happy, but I must take a wait and see a production unit before I can confirm improvement

HT4050 Value Proposition

First thing I need to say here, is that I haven't yet uncorked the less expensive, but similar HT3050.  They are in different boxes, and the HT3050 has less placement flexibility, but they are overall similar, both with a REC 709 mode (I'm expecting similar out of the box color accuracy).  But until I run the HT3050 through it's paces, I'm not prepared to comment on whether one or the other is the better value.

I am, on the other hand prepared to speak of the HT4050 compared to some other BenQ, Optoma, Epson and Sony projectors.  Here goes:

Let's start with the almost legendary "entry level home theater projector" the BenQ W1070, and the almost identical HT1075.  These guys are more around $800 so there's a big price difference.  The W1070 created a stir for its ability to do really good color, and has some decent brightness.  The HT1075 built on that (slightly).

Neither is a match for the HT4050.  Forget brightness where the HT4050 has the edge anyway.   It's mostly the black level difference, which means the rationale is strongest in a darkened room. But the difference in black levels is significant.  The HT4050 gets you almost half way between those other two, and the least expensive of the high quality ultra high contrast projectors, which completely blow away projectors like the W1070 on dark scenes.

So, it's a budget thing.  Most people would spend $2000 - $4000 on a projector, if they have the budget, to get into what I call the sweet spot of the market in terms of overall picture quality/performance.

From that standpoint, if you are an enthusiast (or figure you will be) seeking the best picture possible for your investment, and more expensive than this HT4050 is pushing it, this projector is a very good choice.  I'd typically recommend a $2300 Epson for those with the budget but that's 70% more expensive.  If you can't get to that point, count this a great HT choice.

You get some other goodies, too, not just the placement flexibility, but CFI - smooth motion, lacking on most (not all) lower cost projectors.

If you want to know my thoughts about the closest competition to this BenQ, it's probably the Optoma HD50.  Some serious differences.  The Optoma won't look as good out of the box, but if you calibrate it, they are comparable.  The Optoma which also uses lamp dimming to improve blacks, pushes it to the limit.  It will deliver the superior blacks I prefer, but at the same time, it's Dynamic Black, is rather noticeable.  That is, you will sometimes see the "iris action" of the lamp dimming.  I have with the Optoma's pointed out the trade-off, often recommending not to use their implementation.  That HD50 is better than most older Optomas at this, but it can still be a bit over the top, and also a bit contrasty lo0king - less natural.  Still, that's the closest competition with better than "entry level" black level performance.

You can get CFI if you are a sports fan and want the smooth motion, for as little as in the $700 - $800 range, but in reality few projectors under the price of this one offer it.  The lowest cost ones are the new Epson 2040 and 2045, but then when it comes to things such as black level performance, they aren't competitive.  They are brighter, but still primarily home entertainment projectors.  The more expensive Epson's  under $2000 are also more HE, but have some other things going for them.

Sony and Epson have the true step up projectors in the VPL-HW40ES which is supposed to street price for about $2500 but sometimes shows up hundreds less, I'm told.  The Epson UB's as noted, start at $2299.

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